Every time I visit Athens, Ga., I am amazed that this small town offers so many delightful dining options. I can think of cities much larger that have fewer independent restaurants, and the chain-free establishments in those cities aren't nearly as charming or as inspired as those I've discovered in spunky Athens.
During Daughtress's four years at UGA, which will sadly - yet gladly - culminate in May, I happily sampled the local food scene while visiting her. Some of the eateries were enjoyed before I launched Food and Loathing so forgive my lack of specifics, but I thought I'd mention a few blogworthy spots in addition to Five & Ten, which I reviewed in a previous post.
Last Resort Grill - The first thing that comes to mind is my total shock that Type-A Hubmeister would tolerate a seemingly endless wait to dine at this, much less any, restaurant. We endured over an hour's wait in a tiny, chairless front entrance crammed with other famished parents and aging Bulldogs. There was no getting a seat at the bar or even near the bar for that matter; people were packed like sardines in the lounge area. The beleaguered wait staff was good humored as they maneuvered serving trays through the throng. I wish they would have lobbed a few drinks our way. To exacerbate the situation, it was cold outside, so everybody huddled inside for warmth. All I can say is, thank the Lord the place was worth the wait. I believe I rewarded my patience with the Firecracker Filet because it looked so darned good as I watched it go by countless times. It didn't disappoint. This place was a hit with the whole family. Thumbs up on food, service and atmosphere.
East West Bistro- Pre-Food and Loathing days, but I know lunch was decent because I intended to return. I am channeling homemade sweet potato chips. Due to the crowd, we dined in the wood-accented bar area, which I especially found appealing for its warm, publike aura. Located downtown in an historic building, it's a welcome retreat for a beer or cocktail.
The National - The second Athens venture for Chef Hugh Acheson, who earned accolades for Five & Ten. Thanks to a sweet Daughtress connection, we snagged a table the first weekend The National opened for brunch. The place was packed. Daughtress and I both ordered a smoked trout and egg dish served in petite cast-iron skillets. We found the trout somewhat strong for the early hour (our fault), but Hubs and Son of Hubs ordered well. The surroundings are well appointed, bathed in white. Snazzy.
Big City Bread- I had breakfast here a few times, feeling very much at home. Order and pay at the counter and your food is brought to your table. It occupies an old brick building and boasts a spacious patio filled with Dawgs and their dogs. Size-of-your-head biscuits are a bit sweet, so I always ordered toasted homemade bread and scrambled eggs fried in a ton of butter. They have a pastry case full of scones, cookies and the like, if sweets are your thing. It's a comfy spot to hang out and drink Athens-roasted Jittery Joe's coffee and attracts a university Wi-Fi crowd, but I think I spotted some local professional types, too.
Shokitini - Daughtress and I share a love of sushi, so this was our dinner destination during my overnight stop last month. The place was hopping on a Sunday night and all I could think of was how those college kids could afford to eat there. When I was at FSU, granted a few decades ago, a big night out entailed $5 pitchers of Bud and 10-cent oysters at tattered and battered Barnacle Bill's. Since oysters are like eating nothing, we actually filled up on crackers. Not here. These kids are eating nigiri and drinking Sapporo in a freakin' sophisticated setting. I think we split three rolls, an order of gyoza and each had a couple glasses of wine. The bill was $65 with tax and tip. The meal was beautifully plated and the sushi tasted like the ocean.
Sniff. Sniff. Somebody hand me some Kleenex. My trips to this great college town are quickly coming to an end. Son of Hubmeister has chosen to attend the University of Florida, arch rival of yours truly and the Daughtress Dawg. Come fall, guess I'll be going Gator gigging in Gainesville. That should make for some interesting blog material.